Career advice for the rest of us

I’m done talking about following your passion.  Chances are that if you had a passion, I wouldn’t have to tell you to follow it. 

Telling people to follow their passion indicates a lack of understanding of work.  Every job has Crap that comes with it.  Employers CAN sell passion as a reason to take a lower salary than a job deserves.  Let’s be honest, a big reason you claim to love your job is the status, salary, or way it makes you feel. 

The main reason that passion talk around work is problematic is that it vilifies hard and necessary work.  Few aspire to sweat equity, but these jobs are important and valuable and they shouldn’t be minimized.

The next time I’m asked by someone what they should do with their life, I’m going to tell them to become an expert at something they’re good at.  That’s always good advice.  We need experts.  And being excellent at something pays well and is rewarding.  Becoming an expert at something you’re good at is also a DAMN good reason to go to college and graduate.  Just saying.

Who wants to join in my crusade?

Student Affairs Burnout: Towards a Solution

I’ve been doing some reading over the past few months on work happiness.  It’s intimately tied to the burnout problem we have in student affairs.

Paraphrasing a few better writers, happiness at work has little to do with your actual job, but everything to do with what your job gives you.  These might include status/authority, salary, flexible time off (enabling you to do what you want when you want).  Status/authority could be a high power job or even simply being able to say you work somewhere that conveys status like “i work at the state department”.  Salary needs no explanation.  Flexible time off is not a reality in most jobs but it is in some.

Burnout, it follows, is a lack of the previous.

Working too many hours you don’t want to work, lack of a high salary, and lack of status will absolutely lead to burnout.

MANY jobs in student affairs lack high salary, include hours most don’t want to work, and lack in status (for a variety of reasons).

Salary is complex and flexibility differs greatly between types of positions and institutions.

Awful hours greatly depends on a supervisor or a campus’ willingness to allow students to be left to their own devices.  And some of the hours are just inherent in the work.  Campuses are open 24 hours, 7 days a week, and someone has to provide student services during those hours.

Making people feel like they have status is incredibly complicated.  Different things make people feel like they matter and people don’t all want to matter in the same way.  Some of us want a title, some of us want to brag about where we work, some want to share an opinion and see things happen.  My status is not your status.

One of the articles I read had a quote that I think I’ll keep with me for awhile…if you love a job, it’s not the job you love, but what your job gives you.  Falling out of love with your job is then about what your job doesn’t give you.

Address those things and you fix the burnout problem.

Creating a Student Card Swipe System

Because I don’t have the clout to actually benefit financially from these ideas right now, I’m going to share this with the world.  Also, I know that some people out there in TV land are already doing these sorts of things, especially one company that is called (name extricated because I’m not getting paid to endorse products). I do think these ideas are so self evident that I’m sure other people have thought of these things, even if they couldn’t do them.

I would love to collaborate if you’ve got the means or ability to work on doing these projects.  I think this is the next level of student affairs.  More on that some other time.

After 100 free downloads, I’ve moved this over to the Amazon store.  You can acquire it there!

I talk a lot about data collection and analysis using a card swipe in a student activities context.  However, if you read the whole thing, this is a plan for analyzing student participation and interaction with a campus.  I hope you enjoy.



I saw this little video float across my timeline this afternoon

As I mentioned in the comments of a previous post, part of the email exchange I’ve referenced before was the question “are we educators or administrators?”.

I’m not really comfortable calling myself an educator and I’m not really comfortable calling myself an administrator.  So, I’m going with adminducator.

Let’s break this down, using my job as an example

Admin – I was trying to calculate how much of my job was administrative and I came up with 67.3%, which is really a made up number to explain that I feel like it’s almost 2/3 of my job.  This includes going to meetings that are all or mostly staff members, doing contracts and room reservations, reports, answering phone calls and emails from other staff, doing paperwork for checks, picking up checks, making runs to the store, paying for things online (and arguing with our accounting people about any and all payments).   I also do weekend events which are still staff driven at this point and eat up a huge portion of my time.  It adds to up a major portion of my job.  The truth is though that this is a big part of why I’m paid.  I’m paid to keep weekend programming happening and keep students aware of it and I’m paid to protect the university against risk.  And primarily, since I’m in student activities, I’m paid as an administrator to keep the students entertained.  Administrator comes first in my job and first in “adminducator”.  Also, I can’t imagine how much more upper level folks feel like their job is primarily administrative.  I know I’m in an entry level student focused gig.

ducator – Whoops, we lost an e, partly for functional reasons (didn’t sound right) and partly because if one side of my job has to take a hit, it’s usually the educator side.  True story – I apologized to my activities board this semester because being an admin had eaten up so much of my time that I couldn’t devote as much time as I wanted to working with them.    But I do feel like I educate, and I do feel like the model that I use to educate is a sound one.  I wish I could devote more time to it, and I wish I could devote that education time to something else other than teaching them how to do events.  I feel like teaching them how to do events is really only training them to do my job, and I want to make them into them not into me.  I’m aware that I probably teach them more than they realize, since one admitted that I was one of the few people they ever talk to that’s not their age or their parents and they learn a lot from me (this terrified me).   For clarification purposes, I also include assessment and analysis of our efforts in this side, something I also wish I could do more often.

So, I’m not comfortable calling myself an educator, because in part, that’s a lie.  I am an adminducator.  I’m really good at it.  But I aspire to be much more.

Changing Education from My Angle

I went to see Michael Wesch, US Professor of the Year, speak on campus at UNCG on Monday.  You should Google the man.  He’s big on YouTube and Twitter.  I’ve been wrestling with his talk for the last two days and I had some things I wanted to share:

After seeing some of the ways he was looking at teaching students, I couldn’t help but think about how much better most of my education could have been.  I’ve learned a lot of facts, but didn’t produce a darn thing that was worth much value out of any of my courses.  As I’ve sat in some of these undergrad classes since then, listening to some very intelligent person drone on about things that are very basic to them, I’m constantly thinking about how asinine this whole way of educating is.  I could learn all of these facts and figures from a book.  Or I could just google them.  I haven’t seen much value in the work world to memorizing a mountain of data when you can easily locate said data on the interwebs.  I don’t need to memorize formulas, I just need to know how to use them.  And, yes, I can find that too on the internet.  All I really learned in my classes is how to take tests and that definitely succeeded because I’m a damn good test taker (side note: i read some knucklehead saying that we should take tests at work last week…fkld;afj;ldagflakd;gjdajf;ldsaf).    

I would much rather have produced something of value in my classes, using the best minds as mentors to guide me through that process (my professors and teachers).  If your education isn’t giving you something of value besides tests and papers, you should quit.  I think there are enough places out there that are providing something of value.  To me, something of value is a project that produces something that might be useful to the world outside the classroom walls.  I’d love to hear ideas in the comments.

Dr Wesch showed two models of learning: the current prevailing model being a expert delivering knowledge to his subjects, the aspirant model being a web of interconnected people with one being the expert and the others being the learners.  That looked familiar.  The aspirant model is exactly how I educate my activities board to do events.  I’m the expert, but they educate each other (there are different levels of knowledge within the group), they work collaboratively, and I often leave them to their own devices for periods of time.  But I’m always willing and ready to step in as the expert to provide guidance and direction based on years of expertise.  It’s a beautiful dance when it works correctly (and I only say when because theoretically there could be some time when it doesn’t work correctly, though I haven’t seen it).  I do wish I was educating them on something more substantive than events or intangible “life skills”.  They unfortunately don’t leave their experience with anything they could take with them into the world outside the university walls other than the intangible life skills.  University events are nothing without the university.


If classes were taught like my activities board, where students are given big tasks and asked to work together (and sometimes separately) to produce something, if that something they produced was supposed to have value outside of the campus, and if they were given the backing of an expert like myself to serve as a guide and a mentor (dare i say collaborator?) in their big tasks; I think we would be amazed at the things that they (and we) would produce.

Draw On Chickering App

With an inherently serious app already available, I wanted to make something available that was a little less serious.  I think everyone who works in student affairs has been frustrated with student development or students in general or maybe just working in student affairs, and you’ve wondered to yourself, what’s the big deal with this Chickering dude anyway?

Maybe it would make you feel better to Draw on Chickering.

Introducing the Draw on Chickering app!  Draw on Chickering in 3 colors as well as big and large dots.  Perfect for getting through those frustrating days in grad school and work!  Stop posting passive aggressive posts on Twitter and start drawing on Chickering’s face (not endorsed by Chickering himself, even though that would be awesome).

Click the Buy Now button, credit cards as well as PayPal accepted and I’ll send you the APK file and installation instructions.  Android only.